Chris McGrath: Feats of Pique give Ferguson a fit of pique

The Last Word

It is high time someone made a case for the defence of Manchester United.

Or perhaps even a tea chest, or some kind of sturdy naval trunk. Stick a couple of those roughly where Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand were supposed to be last Sunday, and you would at least see some improved mobility.

Sir Alex Ferguson is rightly being feted for turning the revolving door of his profession into something closer to the Mer de Glace. But you can bet that no toastmaster this week will be referring to the day he lost Gerard Pique thinking he had a better one coming through. After watching Evans and his creaking captain imitate a pair of oil tankers playing water polo, Ferguson would sooner turn the conversation from the Rock of the Nou Camp to Rock Of Gibraltar.

Pique is The Compleat Footballer. On those rare occasions when Barcelona need a late goal, he is sent loping into the front line and immediately looks one of the world's best forwards. And it is defenders of this ilk that provide the authenticating watermark of the great teams.

Plenty of people are admittedly driven nuts by the preening self-image of sides so scrupulously predicated on their aesthetic properties that their defining signature tends to be a defender like Paolo Maldini, who might not actually be able to walk on water but could certainly have been painted doing so by Raphael. Especially when Pique regularly finds himself paired with that notorious Dogo Argentino, Javier Mascherano. Ferguson, certainly, will recall from boyhood that very few hulls in the shipyards of Govan were made of Sèvres.

Be that as it may, events last Sunday surely showed that the national side now requires bypass surgery in the heart of its defence. However grimly functional England may be elsewhere on the pitch, in their back line the same base qualities tend to become alchemically valued as priceless. And Ferdinand and John Terry combine that bulldog spirit with aeons of experience.

But if Manchester City's great statement rendered Ferdinand speechless, it evidently had the reverse effect on Terry. Whatever he may or may not have said – to Ferdinand's brother, of all people – he would plainly have been better off keeping his mouth shut. As it is, he has yet again thickened the noxious miasma that seems to follow him everywhere he goes. And the older he gets, the more his various actual and alleged affronts to decency and class will be treated as paper over cracks in his game. In fairness, Terry is probably no more ghastly now than he has always been. But everyone saw at the World Cup how precariously his role in the team depends on the nervous ostentation with which he performs that of Leader.

As with all bullies, there seems to be a lot of insecurity. It must be said that Chelsea's disciplinary meltdown against QPR was condensed in more captivating fashion by the man standing alongside Terry. Not that David Luiz spent much of his afternoon standing, never mind alongside Terry. Luiz seemed to be propelled through physical dimensions like the experimental creation of some crazed atomic scientist – marauding up and down the field, throwing himself and other people to the ground, and defying Newton with that suspended overhead shot. It was almost as if his famous coiffure would revert to a crew cut the moment he left the pitch.

Here, even so, is a young defender with the stuff of greatness in him. Albeit not the stuff of a great defender. Andre Villas-Boas has already disparaged the idea that Luiz would be deployed less perilously – and more productively – in midfield, but this was the week that broke the spell cast by the young Chelsea manager since his arrival. Certainly, the suspicion that his players' implosion reflected what had just happened at Old Trafford would seem to be supported by the way this debonair intellectual suddenly started digging a moat of irrational self-pity around them.

Villas-Boas even got it into his head to say of Terry: "I find it strange that people doubt a player who is hugely representative of his country." This was a pretty disastrous remark from a man in danger of warming neutrals to Chelsea. For now, thanks largely to David Silva, most are enjoying the City adventure enormously – not least because the collateral benefit to England extends to a rearguard where Joe Hart, Micah Richards and even Joleon Lescott are flourishing.

None the less, Fabio Capello's ultimate successor would be indebted if he were to use next summer primarily to give Ferguson's next generation, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, more experience. It's not as if England have a prayer of stopping Spain or Germany anyway, and they need to plan for the 2014 World Cup on the basis that neither Ferdinand nor Terry will be there. And Evans, dammit, is from Northern Ireland.

Getting shirty over Villa's Bannan

Though footballers are often depicted as terrible role models, most are perfectly decent and responsible men. Or so I've been telling my son.

Last weekend he celebrated his eighth birthday by seeing his heroes at Aston Villa, and picking a replica kit from the club shop. In his wisdom, he chose Barry Bannan, possibly because they are the same size. Within 24 hours, Bannan had been arrested on suspicion of drink-driving and he has now been suspended.

These shirts come at an exorbitant cost, but I suppose this one contained a priceless lesson in growing up. Let's hope Bannan has learnt something, too.

people And here is why...
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
footballLatest scores and Twitter updates
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties